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Bits: BA Gatwick schedule changes, Virgin sale, Starwood’s new ‘Member Exclusive Rates’

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News in brief:

More BA Gatwick schedule changes

British Airways has announced some additional schedule changes for Gatwick this Winter.  None of these are substantial.  The reason I mention them is that, because these flights were only added into the system on Wednesday, there should still be Avios availability on most dates even at peak times.

This is what is coming:

  • Funchal – extra weekly departure on a Tuesday from 1st November
  • Lanzarote – extra weekly departure on a Saturday from 5th November
  • Amsterdam – extra weekly departure on a Thursday from 3rd November
  • Jersey – extra weekly departure on a Sunday from 30th October
  • Salzburg – extra weekly departure on a Saturday from 5th November
  • Turin – extra weekly departure on a Monday from 31st October
  • Nice – extra weekly departure on a Wednesday from 23rd November

All of these can now be booked at

As at 4pm yesterday there were still 4 economy seats and 2 Club Europe seats to Salzburg on the Saturday of February half term (11th).  This is probably THE most expensive BA short-haul flight of the year, filled with skiers.  For cash, those same economy seats are selling for £322 one-way EACH.

British Airways BA A350 in flight

Virgin Atlantic sale expands booking dates

The Virgin Atlantic sale is continuing for another few days, ending on 12th July.

The available bookings dates for the cheapest fares have just been widened for many destinations.  If you tried to book earlier but found prices higher than the ‘lead in’ advertised fare it may be worth another look.  The headline prices are:

Economy:  Boston £438, Atlanta £577, New York £438, Washington £482, Miami £439, San Francisco £547, Dubai £350, Cancun £494

Premium Economy:  Boston £716, Chicago £780, Las Vegas £795, New York £716

Available travel dates can be found on the Virgin sale website here.

Virgin Atlantic 787

Starwood launches ‘Member Exclusive Rates’

Finally, Starwood (owners of Le Meridien, Westin, St Regis, Aloft, Element, W and Sheraton) has joined Hilton, IHG and other brands in fully rolling out ‘Member Exclusive Rates’.  You will now pay less if you book at and are a member of Starwood Preferred Guest.

Such rates are the new weapon being used by the big brands in the war with Expedia and  A loophole in the contracts with the online travel agents allows the chains to sell their rooms cheaper on their own websites as long as they are not ‘publicly available’.  Making you sign up as a member of the loyalty scheme – for free – before you can book these rates is how they claim the discounts are not ‘publicly available’.

You should, in any case, be booking direct with the chain in most cases.  This is the only way to earn loyalty points from your stay and, for most chains, get your status benefits recognised.

The alternative is to commit to something like Rewards which gives you a free night for every 10 nights you book irrespective of brand.  Next Friday I am actually using a Rewards free night for the very first time – it took me about four years to do the 10 nights required because the bulk of my bookings do go via direct booking channels.

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards (December 2023)

There are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

The official Marriott Bonvoy American Express card comes with 20,000 points for signing up, 2 points for every £1 you spend and 15 elite night credits per year.

You can apply here.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

20,000 points sign-up bonus and 15 elite night credits each year Read our full review

You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points by converting American Express Membership Rewards points at the rate of 2:3.

Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for as long as they hold the card?  It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Premium and MeliaRewards Gold status.  We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive a huge 100,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 100,000 Avios) with The Platinum Card. You receive 75,000 points if you spend £10,000 in six months and a further 25,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.

The Platinum Card from American Express

Crazy 100,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY) and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points indirectly:

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 30,000 Avios) with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. You receive 25,000 points if you spend £3,000 in three months and a further 5,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.

and for small business owners:

The conversion rate from American Express to Marriott Bonvoy points is 2:3.

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which can be used to earn Marriott Bonvoy points

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Comments (15)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Go says:

    How will the spg price promise be affected if you compare a non member rate with for example and find it more expensive. Earlier this year i found a cheaper deal and they matched it and gave me 20% off.

    • Rob says:

      I assume the price match continues as before – whether they claim the member rate should now be the basis of the comparison is a different question.

  • Lambs says:

    Can you buy a flight in the Virgin sale in economy & upgrade with flying club?

  • Eric says:

    Thanks Rob

    Been looking for reward flight to Canaries. Lanzarote booked for Xmas. 4 people. 80000 + £112

  • pcraftuk says:

    Don’t forget the recent time changes to flights too….we are booked on BA ex LGW to BCN and they have bought forward the flight times by 3 hours on the outbound and return. Not best pleased!

  • Andrew H says:

    Sorry, meant to say ‘O/T’ there 🙂

  • danksy says:

    Not sure on the most expensive short haul flight comment.

    1 way from OSL to LHR in Clubeurope came in at c. £500!
    In the end I burnt 11,000 On business points for two of us (plus just over £100)

    • Rob says:

      But did you book that flight 8 months in advance?

      You also cannot book 1-way Club Europe flights in the cheaper booking classes. In your case it would probably have been cheaper to book a return and throw away the 2nd leg, or book an economy ticket and hope to get a ‘pay to upgrade’ offer in Manage My Booking.

      • Danksy says:

        I seriously considered it… but I had a companion voucher expiring for the outbound leg and avios avaialbility!

    • harry says:

      Yep – booking a 1-way in CE on our route is £610 (April 2017)
      whereas same date out with a return flight (also in CE) is £410.


      • harry says:

        This is also (often) true of ET, ie one way fare is expensive whereas a return fare using same outward date + a return on another day is cheap. To give an off peak example on our route (same times for outward):

        One way out HBO 4 April £125
        out HBP 4 April £45 + return 18 April £45 = £90

  • Hfp reader says:

    Raffles, can you run an article on when it makes sense to book direct with a chain hotel rather than with I understand the whole status thing, but even then it seems to me that a voucher after 10 nights and their best price guarantee, I find that route cheaper considering that for a free night in a Hilton you typically need some 30000 points. Surely it takes more than 10 nights to get those? had a cheaper rate on my last 9 out of 10 Hilton stays (their ‘insider price’ was consistently cheaper than the lowest prepaid rate in the Current Hilton sale) and on the 1 occasion where it was cheaper to book direct, they matched it without fuss. I do about 60 night/year in hotels, the problem is that it’s never with one particular chain…

  • Fenny says:

    Completely OT: Is anyone else having problems with Award Wallet updating their accounts. Every time I ask it to update an account, I get an “unexpected error”.

    I’ve logged out and in again to AW. I’ve also checked assorted accounts to see that I can log in to them.

    • TimS says:

      Yes, same for me

      • Andrew H says:

        Yep, same here. I had this problem last week but it was back to normal in 24 hours. It’s not normal for AwardWallet at the moment.

        On another note, the Captcha things in my travel accounts are increasingly becoming a problem when I do an ‘update all’ in AW. Air France is the latest site to use them.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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